Opening address by Jari Vilén, Minister for Foreign Trade of Finland, to the National Defence Course

Opening address by Jari Vilén, Minister for Foreign Trade of Finland, to the National Defence Course


The European Union’s contribution to activities against international terrorism and to crisis management in Afghanistan is, without doubt, crucially important from the United States’ point of view. However, the security policy relations between the EU and the US have a more extensive impact on the solutions to be made in the near future.

Beside an economic role, the European Union also has a growing political role in international security developments. In the transatlantic dialogue, the EU and its member states are allies and cooperation partners of the United States, but at the same time also its challengers. This discussion and decision-making have an essential impact on how regional crises are managed and whether new forcible measures are to be taken against problem states in the future.

The recent stands taken by the United States have been interpreted as a warning that, if necessary, the USA will resort to unilateral and preventive use of force against the threat constituted by support to international terrorism and pursuit of mass destruction weapons. In this context, especially the state of Iraq has been named, but also Iran and North Korea.

Europe is concerned about such a prospect. The united front created by the crisis in Afghanistan would not stand an enlargement of the use of military force in the present situation. The pattern has changed: in addition to the prevention of international terrorism, there are now new elements which involve fundamental conflicts of interest and divergent views also between the great powers.

The differences between the security policies of the United States and the EU are most glaring in situations where the military role of the USA comes to the fore, as at present.

The foundations of the Union are those of a civilian power. The EU builds both internal security within its own territory and international security through an extensive societal change and the resulting stability. The Union is not a state and even less a military great power as the United States, which attends to its security interests globally and, today more strictly than ever, also from the viewpoint of homeland security.

The international community recognises the right to self-defence. If the United States resorts to the use of force, it has to be based on binding evidence. Any military operations have to be internationally legitimate and mandated by the United Nations, as in the case of Afghanistan.

What is essential in this situation is to prevent conflicts, to ease tension and to manage crises. The stands taken by the United States are undoubtedly also intended as a deterrent to the target states and as a requirement on its allies, partners and other great powers to contribute to the elimination of the prevailing threats.

Ultimately, the EU underlines the significance of sustainable development to international security. The strengthening of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and also international law is one of the main priorities in the Union’s foreign and security policy. The EU can have an influence on the United States so that it will orient itself openly towards binding and efficient multilateral international cooperation.

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Recent events and policy steps by the United States, including its plans to increase the defence expenditure to an unprecedented level, have inspired discussion about the military and strategic gap between the United States and Europe widening further.

It is useless even to ponder whether European states could keep up with the rearmament of the United States in quantity or even in quality and technically. Nevertheless, European states are developing their national defence forces in accord with their security policy objectives. The significance of international crisis management tasks is growing, and this trend both requires and advances qualitative and structural reforms.

It is important that the gap between the military capabilities of the United States and Europe does not increase divergence between their security policies. The EU countries and the USA have much to win in cooperation in such central issues as stabilisation in Central and Eastern Europe, management of regional crises and prevention of international terrorism.

In the light of the recent developments, the United States and the EU have to further intensify their partnership relation to reinforce sustainable international security. The EU has a greater global responsibility than ever, and the United States has to continue its contribution to the maintenance of stability also in Europe.

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The future of NATO has been much discussed after the 11th of September. The main stimulus was that NATO was kept aside from the military operations of the United States and some of its allies after the organisation had, for the first time ever, decided to apply Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty concerning collective defence.

This event seems to prove that NATO cannot provide any added value to the USA in the future trend of using military force, such as anti-terrorism activities or military coercion.

It is difficult to forecast the future of NATO as a military alliance. It will have to adapt itself further to the changing security environment, as it has done successfully since the end of the Cold War. A stable position of NATO is important not only for the transatlantic bond but for security in Europe as a whole.

NATO will retain its role as a mechanism for the member countries’ mutual security guarantees and collective defence. As the events of last autumn show us, the commitment made in Article 5 does not automatically lead to joint military action to support a member country which has been attacked. It is up to each member country to decide on such support according to its capacities and will, and also the organisation has to decide on it separately.

On the other hand, the significance of security guarantees varies from member to member. One reason for this is the fact that the risk of a traditional armed attack against a NATO country, or in Europe in general, has continuously decreased, also concerning the future.

This assessment of the situation leads us to the conclusion that, in the light of the ongoing developments, NATO is increasingly changing from a mainly military organisation to a political body. What could this mean?

As a result of the changes during the last few years, NATO has become an organisation for security policy cooperation, and it has created an extensive partnership network with countries in the area covered by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The aim is to develop interoperability in crisis management and also to promote military reform among the partners.

It is exaggerated to claim that NATO is becoming another OSCE, only reinforced with an access to real military resources. As long as Article 5 remains in force, and as long as the USA is the leading state and a guarantor power and NATO has a common planning and preparation mechanism and forces for earmarked for collective use, NATO will be an organisation for collective defence and not for collective or common security, although it contributes to the maintenance of such a system both within the UN and within Europe.

The political nature of NATO also shows in the fact that its responsibilities are expanding to different sectors of security policy and precautionary measures of societies. The most important new questions around which the role of NATO is being built up are how to combat international terrorism and how to prevent the proliferation of mass destruction weapons. The related international obligations have been created elsewhere, but NATO’s task could be to coordinate the activities in its member countries and to strengthen political unity.

In activities against terrorism, NATO has a political role, even though the implementation in practice is primarily the EU’s responsibility.

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NATO is approaching a new enlargement decision. It may be more significant politically than militarily, at least in the short term. NATO’s enlargement policy aims to contribute to stabilisation in Central European and Baltic countries. The enlargements of the EU and NATO support each other in that they involve similar political conditions of membership.

On the other hand, the politically steered enlargement puts NATO’s military efficiency to the test. NATO does not expect its new member countries to bring added military value, at least not without adaptation.

Recent developments have indicated that the enlargement may raise less political waves than was assessed earlier.

From Finland’s point of view, it is positive that the Baltic states can achieve those security policy objectives which they consider indispensable for consolidating their international positions. Finland will retain good relations with the Baltic countries irrespective of their security policy solutions.

Also the fact that Russia and NATO have come closer to each other is positive for Finland. We have no reason to suspect that such a development might conflict with Finland’s security interests.

It is artificial to compare the positions of Finland and Russia in the context of NATO relations. Russia as a great power has its own particular relations with other great powers, above all the United States. Also the intensifying Russia–NATO cooperation has to be seen in that light.

We do not know yet exactly what kind of new mutual cooperation arrangements Russia and NATO are making. However, it is not to be expected that NATO will give up independent decision-making on its own matters. According to preliminary information, NATO will offer Russia the opportunity to sit at a common table as an equal participant and discuss cooperation with NATO and the NATO countries in such issues as combating international terrorism, preventing the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, and crisis management. The joint NATO–Russia forum supports international cooperation, which involves also many other structures.

Finland has had fruitful cooperation with NATO within the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace. Our country cooperates actively with Sweden to ensure that the EAPC retains its significance as a political channel of cooperation and influence also as NATO enlarges and security challenges change. At the same time, we aim at continuously strengthening the practical PfP cooperation. It is important for us from the viewpoint of both security policy and the development of our national defence forces.

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The basic solutions concerning Finland’s security policy will be assessed in a comprehensive manner in the Government’s security policy report to Parliament in 2004. Recent developments have shown that the timing is correct and appropriate. Finland’s security policy line was last confirmed by Parliament when it dealt with the corresponding report of 2001.

The development of the EU is one of the basic factors for Finland’s security and defence policy. It will probably be given even more significance when the functioning of our security policy will be assessed in accordance with the report.

Also the significance of NATO has to be assessed without political tensions. The security environment continues to change. Finland will follow these changes attentively, but at the same time, it will influence the developments from a strong and central position.










































































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